As you might have heard, Chile midfielder Arturo Vidal was involved in a serious car accident late Tuesday night. The 28-year-old, who is currently the leading scorer at the Copa America with three goals in two games, was returning from a casino just south of the Chilean capital Santiago with his wife when the incident occurred. Thankfully, both were unhurt.
While Vidal maintains he did not cause the three-car accident, he was nevertheless arrested on suspicion of drunk driving. The next day (Wednesday), the Juventus midfielder was found guilty of driving under the influence with a blood-alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.12 percent, which in Chile is deemed “a state of drunkenness” rather than merely being “under the influence.”
As a result, Vidal has lost his driver’s license and will be forced to report monthly to the Chilean consulate in Milan, Italy for a period of 120 days while further investigations take place. Despite being held by police on Tuesday night, the player managed to avoid a jail sentence.
He is a lucky boy, because driving under the influence -- let alone “in a state of drunkenness” -- is a serious crime just about everywhere. According to Wikipedia, driving with a BAC of more than 0.08 usually carries a minimum prison term of 61 to 301 days in Chile, in addition to a fine, and a two-year suspension of the perpetrator’s driver’s license.
According to the Web site Be Responsible About Drinking, a 0.12 BAC is the point at which “vomiting usually occurs, unless this level is reached slowly or a person has developed a tolerance to alcohol. Drinkers are drowsy.” At Vidal’s current weight of 165 pounds, the Chilean must have had four, if not five, drinks to attain a BAC of 0.12, per the Web site.
But he is even luckier, because if Chile coach Jorge Sampaoli has his way, Vidal will not be suspended at all by his national team.
Meanwhile, the accident is well-documented. Numerous photos of the incident show heavy damage to the front-left of his Ferrari. Video of his arrest shows that he was belligerent towards the police officers who detained him, shouting things like, “You f***** up, sir,” and “Handcuff me, but you will be sh****** on the whole of Chile.”
Speaking at a press conference after his guilty verdict on Wednesday, Vidal said: “I had two drinks and had an accident, as everyone knows, and put the life of my wife and other people at risk. And for that I'm really sorry. I'm really embarrassed and all I can do is ask for forgiveness and show on the field that this opportunity I've been given is worth something.”
What opportunity is that? Is he referring to the opportunity to play professional soccer, represent his country and lead a glamorous lifestyle where he can afford (to crash) a $365,000 car? Or, is he referring to the get-out-of-jail free card, which Sampaoli effectively hands him when he says the following:
“Arturo's accident worried us all. The first thing that crossed our minds were his health and his family. We will see how he is. He is a very valuable player who has made a mistake, but not the kind of mistake to exclude him. He was in his free time after all. I don't believe this is as serious as some have tried to portray it. At this point it'd be easier to exclude him than to include him. And if we notice anything that affects the national team, we will make a decision on that. An internal correction. But it's not in my nature to single out and exclude someone for making a mistake.”
That’s an interesting assessment. The 55-year-old follows it up with an even more interesting: “I never test my players for alcohol when they arrive at training. I trust my team. I know they’ll give their everything to win. And I don’t see their decision to drink as a question of my authority.”
Note to the U.S. media: this has now become the de facto example of a world-class player that has been deemed too important by his national soccer association to exclude at any cost.
Arturo Vidal has had an excellent Copa America up until this point, but this should, without question, be the end of his tournament. Not only has he committed a serious crime, but he’s also put other people’s lives (including his wife’s, no less) in danger, and everyone was very lucky to escape unscathed. Whether or not the accident was his fault is beside the point, but the fact that he was possibly very drunk and there is photo and video evidence of everything that happened (including the police harassment) looks really, really bad for Chile and, particularly, the Chilean soccer association, which according to the Guardian, signed off on all of this earlier Wednesday.
Contrast this to the Hope Solo case, which lacks photo, video or concrete evidence of the incident in question -- let alone a verdict -- and U.S. Soccer suddenly doesn’t look so bad for allowing her to continue at the Women’s World Cup.
Obviously, the USA and Chile are very different countries, but make no mistake about it, if Vidal was American, his Copa America would be over, and then some.
Meanwhile, if the Chilean soccer federation is simply going to give its star player a pass, perhaps it would behoove FIFA to step in here and act like a real authority?